Feb 18, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Pompeo says new China media restrictions "long overdue"

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The State Department announced Tuesday that it has designated five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions," meaning that they will be treated as arms of the Chinese government.

Driving the news: In his first public statement on the new designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Axios that the five outlets are "clearly controlled by the [Chinese Communist Party], and we are simply recognizing that fact by taking this action.”

Why it matters: This marks the latest move by the Trump administration to pressure the Chinese government by applying similar restrictions on Chinese entities in the United States as Beijing places on American organizations in China.

  • The label applies to the U.S.-based operations of five Chinese state-funded news outlets — Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corp., and Hai Tian Development USA.

What he's saying: “We are determined to treat China as it is, not as what we want it to be. In China, all media works for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as General Secretary Xi Jinping has explicitly stated," Pompeo said in a statement provided to Axios.

  • "Since these organizations work for the CCP, it is only fitting that we treat them as foreign missions, meaning they are subject to State Department regulation."
  • "This action is long overdue. For years, these so-called media outlets have been mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party and these Chinese outlets are becoming more aggressive."

Details: The label "foreign mission" triggers certain disclosure requirements. The designation falls under the Foreign Missions Act of 1982, which defines a foreign mission as an entity that is “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign government.

  • The Chinese media outlets will now have to provide personnel rosters and information about their U.S. real estate holdings to the State Department.

The big picture: A stated purpose of the Foreign Missions Act is to use reciprocity to "ensure equitable treatment" for U.S. personnel abroad, a principle that the Trump administration has repeatedly emphasized in its approach to the U.S.-China relationship.

  • In October 2019, for example, the State Department issued a new rule requiring Chinese diplomats to file notifications with the department before meeting with universities, research institutions or government officials below the federal level.

The new designation is explicitly intended to move toward reciprocity.

  • "These propaganda organs operate freely within the open American system, while journalists inside of China face massive restrictions," said Pompeo. "We hope that the Chinese Communist Party will reconsider its treatment of journalists inside of China."

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